What is a Clairvoyant?
Clairvoyance is the subclass of extrasensory perception (ESP) in which an individual perceives an object or event by some means other than the usual senses. The typical laboratory test of clairvoyance is card guessing. Cards are well shuffled and repeatedly cut, or are arranged according to a random number list, so that their order cannot be inferred. The cards (or other "target" items) are concealed from both subject and experimenter, and the subject guesses their order. Where guesses correspond to targets so markedly that the results cannot sensibly be attributed to chance, and sensory cues, inferences, and the like are excluded, clairvoyance is said to be demonstrated.
Although it was formerly believed that few persons were clairvoyant, modern research indicates that clairvoyant ability of a very faint, intermittent sort is widespread. The cumulative score from hundreds of test records may be so high that it cannot be explained by chance, although no single score was outstanding.
An interesting finding is that experimental subjects with negative attitudes tend to score below chance, while subjects with good morale and affirmative, outgoing attitudes typically score higher. Schoolchildren who dislike their teacher often do badly at a clairvoyant "guessing game," and adults who are resentful or bored tend to have low scores. Where personality tests indicate a person is withdrawn, his clairvoyance scores are likely to be low, as if he were unconsciously withdrawing from the clairvoyant targets. Such low scores, if they are consistent and predictable, are as meaningful as high ones. (A person who never wins in an honest game of chance would be as extraordinary from the scientific point of view as a person who always wins.) Modern research in clairvoyance therefore ordinarily contrasts two conditions or two types of subjects and predicts that one set of scores will be higher. The difference between the two shows whether clairvoyance occurred.
High scores tend to be associated with relaxed interest and good motivation; low scores with excessive pressure and tension, or low morale. (Perhaps the classical crystal ball helped to induce an appropriate mood: relaxation combined with eagerness.) However, since clairvoyant ability is faint and variable, short series of clairvoyant guesses are undependable. Any particular success or failure may be coincidence.
The physical mechanism of clairvoyance is unknown. Partly for this reason, partly because some self-proclaimed professional "clairvoyants" are frauds, and partly because of their not having read current research, many scientists consider the evidence for clairvoyance inconclusive.